UH News

2012 World Breastfeeding Week

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Road to Lifelong Health Begins with Breastfeeding

While malnutrition plagues numerous developing countries, rates of obesity are at an all-time high in many developed countries, with the highest prevalence in the United States and Mexico. The health and nutritional status of mothers and infants are directly linked, making appropriate infant feeding a critical first step in preventing these and a variety of other medical conditions. “Poor feeding practices can lead to malnutrition and obesity, and contribute to an overall decline in the health and welfare of the population,” said Cathy Carothers, President of the International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA). Research shows that infants who are not exclusively breastfed for their first six months of life are also more likely to develop a wide range of chronic and acute diseases and conditions including ear infections, diarrheal diseases, asthma, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and respiratory illnesses. In addition, mothers who do not breastfeed are at an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

Keeping breastfeeding high on the public health agenda is critical to improving global health. Early and exclusive breastfeeding with the introduction of appropriate complementary feeding around six months of age ensures that both mothers and infants receive maximum health benefits. The Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding, jointly developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), serves as a roadmap toward a renewed commitment to exclusive breastfeeding beginning in the first hour of birth to achieve optimal health outcomes. The Global Strategy is celebrating 10 years of guiding infant feeding in 2012.

In honor of that anniversary, the topic of World Breastfeeding Week 2012 (August 1-7, 2012) is “Understanding the Past—Planning the Future: Celebrating 10 years of WHO/UNICEF’s Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding.” Building on the concept that the Global Strategy serves as a roadmap for actions to protect, promote and support breastfeeding to achieve maximum health benefits, World Breastfeeding Week is being celebrated with the ILCA theme “The Road to Lifelong Health Begins with Breastfeeding.”

This road to lifelong health is not one for mothers and babies to travel alone. “While breastfeeding is a learned behavior, it is important to remember that the journey to successful breastfeeding begins with support of families, health care providers, governments, employers and communities,” said Carothers. ILCA provides abundant resources, including a “Find a Lactation Consultant” Directory that helps new mothers access local International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) who can help navigate the way to successful breastfeeding and ultimately to sustained health. ILCA’s “Worksite Lactation Support Directory” provides a listing of IBCLCs with specific expertise in helping employers set up lactation programs to help mothers continue breastfeeding after they return to work.

For more information about World Breastfeeding Week or IBCLCs, visit the ILCA website at www.ILCA.org. To learn more about World Breastfeeding Week activities planned in your community contact: Libby Svoboda. UH Women’s Health Center, (216) 595-5355.

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